Finding linearity in life, music, movies, and stories

I believe that humans understand and believe things when these things are linear. Maybe that sounds like a weird statement, but let me elaborate. There are many things in our life that rely on patterns, activities that are on going, repeating itself over and over. A pattern is a pattern when its cycle is linear over time. For example, suppose you are a member of your favorite magazine. Each first Saturday of every month, you get this magazine delivered on your doorstep. This is clear linear pattern of delivery, you expect it to come each month. And when you open your magazine, let’s say it’s Science magazine, you expect the magazine to be thick as usual, with scientific content as usual, and nicely edited as usual. These “as usuals” means that there is a linear pattern in each pattern. When the magazine deviates from its own pattern, like sudden delivery on a Monday, less content, or poorly written, there is something up. I believe that we as humans are very keen on spotting deviating (non-linear) patterns. When someone’s behavior is non-linear, when a story is non-linear, or a painting (design pattern) is non-linear, we see this right away. This is no surprise, because when I show you a straight line and a wobbly line, I’ll have no doubt that you can distinguish them from each other. Nevertheless, I think that our ability to recognize and search for linearity is often overlooked. Furthermore, recognizing your abilities to spot linearity within patterns could be very useful and makes you grasp many concepts of life. Consciously searching for linearity might help you to detect lies, to understand movie-scenes, to write a good story, or just to understand the dynamics of life.

But what do I exactly mean with linear?
Well you have a pattern that repeats regularly; your morning break, a weekly newsletter, your walking rhythm, and so on. Between each pattern, there is a linear interval, like a week-interval for the weekly newsletter or 2 seconds interval for each step in your walking rhythm. This interval is a stable pattern that we can rely on, just as easy as 1,2,3,…. Within movies or series you also have many regular patterns. In Crime Scene Investigation series you have like the first 5 minutes of the murder, than 5 minutes of the impact of the murder, 5 minutes of finding out the murderer, and then 5 minutes of revenge/processing, “Tadaa finished”. These patterns repeat across episodes and when they deviate, something strange is going on. For example. “double episodes” are always a sign that something important will happen and that the makers might deviate from their usual pattern. Even across years we find linear patterns of “Christmas specials” where it feels weird when a director does not cohere with this Christmas rhythm. You can see rhythms of music also as linear patterns. At first you feel like music is not at all about linearity, but if you listen to instrumental versions, the repetitions of the chorus, or repetitive flowing voice of the singer, you find a lot of linearity. Especially in pop-music, linearity is omnipresent with Bohemian Rhapsody as an exception maybe.

Zooming in linearity
If you watch an action movie, you’ll see that within 2 hours, the lead character can murder hundreds of people while saving the universe. On the other side, there are also drama movies that revolve just about the murder of one person, and a love life. It is no question that pace of these movies is way different. The scenes of action movies will be much more broad and abstract telling the story through a few one-liners. On the other side, these intense drama will have large dialogue’s giving it a complex story. Furthermore, the action movies don’t zoom that much into the details of the murders, on the getting into the car, or the fact that the hero needs to put on his coat when going out. While the intense drama movie will zoom endlessly on the little details, you might have five minutes scene of the brokenhearted girl unable to button up her jacket when hesitant to go outside. With the action-movie everything gets stretched and revolves across heavy moments of oneliners and explosions. With the drama movie everything gets squeezed a little zooming into the details. On various levels the stories are different but they should have one commodity, the linearity is the same, in respective to their story line. It’s weird if the action hero suddenly has a complicated dialogue in the local supermarket while he is flying in UFO’s a few minutes later, or when the drama-movie girl suddenly kills of 10 people in a few second after being heartbroken for 1,5 hour. Nevertheless, several producers play with the linearity of movie-scenes to make stuff weird and interesting. You could see the pace of the action-movies like going, 0,5,10,15,20,25, and the drama-movie going like 0,0.5,1,1.5,2,2.5, relative to a normal human life (which would be 1,2,3,4,5).  This same account when you tell a story to someone, you always need to skip details, but if you irregularly zoom into details, and then skip huge parts, you get a very strange story. I proofed that in this short story I have written for this blog: read it here.

Detecting genuineness and lying with Multi-leveled linearity
Humans, as most animals, are great in reading body language. We read the posture, the movement of the hands, frowning of the face, the stance of the mouth, and the pinching of the eyes. But when someone starts to talk, we should also recognize and listen to the words someone says, the intonation, the fluency, etcetera. There are so many levels we should pay attention to, that it is hard to believe that we actually listen that well to the words, or look closely at someones hand gestures. For example, our brain does only process 17-25% of the words we hear during communication. I believe, that we are searching for coherence between the multiple patterns we see. For example, when someone says something angry on a very nice tone, thus comes across as weird. When your friends says he will pay you back soon, but his vocal tones show hesitation, you might not believe him. Nevertheless, you need to couple these different dimensions and make the right interpretations of someone’s behavior. Read more about this in another blog of mine about being the true you (a fractal being theory).

It seems like many of the things we see every day have to do with finding linearity, finding patterns. This fits within my larger theory on the omnipresence of patterns and our search for order, predictability, and structure within the world around us (a blog about this isn’t published that). Nevertheless, a pattern is not just a regularity, it is more than that. They have often a fractal aspect to them, which I wouldn’t discuss here. But overall, it is crazy to realize how good we are at finding regularities in our environment. We have a lot of knowledge about the linearity of multiple movies in our brain, we recognize it instantly when a story is badly written, and we can detect genuine behavior from our friends in an instance. We can do so much without an effort, we sure a very precise internal rhythm guiding our behavior, timing everything around us. Just as I showed in this experiment.


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